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Catching a Falling Financial Knife

Greek Debt Crisis Turns Deadly; Will Governments Act Before Economic Disaster Hits?

Economics / Global Debt Crisis May 07, 2010 - 08:11 AM GMT

By: Mike_Larson

Economics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThis week, the financial crisis in Greece turned deadly serious. No longer are investors just losing boatloads of money. People are starting to lose their lives!

The latest bout of chaos struck on Wednesday during a general strike. Everyone from air traffic controllers to teachers left their posts. Tens of thousands of protestors hit the streets, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails. Three people reportedly died in a fire that struck an Athens bank branch.


So what’s provoking the madness?

It’s the stiff austerity measures the rest of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund want Greece to enact. Officials are forcing Greece to slash public sector wages, freeze pensions and boost taxes before they’ll start disbursing the $143 billion in bailout money.

Greece's citizens are scared over what's to come.
Greece’s citizens are scared over what’s to come.

But Greek citizens are sick of bearing the brunt of the pain. They don’t want to see their wages, salaries, and standard of living collapse. And they’re stark raving mad, especially because the measures are being crammed down their throats at a time when unemployment is already running at a six-year high of 11.3 percent.

Borrow and Spend Madness Sparks a Greek Tragedy

I hate to see things come to this. At the same time, I believe there is a serious (and potentially valuable) lesson coming out of this mess — one that I hope governments elsewhere will learn!

You see, this terrible Greek tragedy stems from a simple fact: The country lived way beyond its means for far too long! Politicians borrowed and spent like mad, assuming the day of reckoning would never come.

Then on September 24, 2009, creditors decided they’d had enough. I don’t know why it was that day. I don’t think anyone does now — and I doubt anyone ever will. But that’s when Greek debt prices started declining and Greek bond yields started rising.

That was when creditors decided to FORCE the government to get its fiscal house in order. They didn’t do so with guns. They didn’t do so with bombs. They did so by picking up the phone and uttering a four letter word: “Sell.”

That simple move set in motion a process that eventually drove interest rates sky-high. And that has now turned a simmering economic problem into a major political and social crisis.

So what’s the lesson?

Don’t Wait for Disaster to Strike — Head It Off While You Still Can!

If Greece had tried to get its house in order BEFORE interest rates surged, it probably would have avoided the disaster unfolding before our eyes. If Greek officials had demonstrated a little foresight — a little proactive thinking and policymaking —they could have prevented a huge tragedy.

Will the rest of the world take the Greek crisis seriously?
Will the rest of the world take the Greek crisis seriously?

But instead, they chose the easy way out. And now they’re paying a huge price.

What I hope — in my heart of hearts — is that policymakers in Lisbon … Madrid … London … and most importantly, Washington, are listening. I hope they’re all sitting in front of their televisions and watching the chaos in Greece. I hope they’re going to learn their lesson and take PROACTIVE action to get their own fiscal houses in order.

What I fear is that they won’t.

Heck, not a day goes by without some television anchor or government official saying something like: “Look at the 10-year Treasury Note yield. If investors were worried about our debts or our deficits, they wouldn’t be buying our bonds at these low rates.”

But you know what?

They were saying the same thing in Athens … right up until September 24, 2009.

Until next time,

Mike

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Catching a Falling Financial Knife